MAESTRI AND PANERATI IN JAPAN
The Italian pitchers, Maestri and Panerati are both looking forward to 2013 baseball season in Japan. Maestri and his team, Orix Buffaloes, are already underway in the NPB as the young right-hander has already thrown in 3 games.
Panerati is preparing for his first time around in the Challenge League.“The organization is currently hosting 7 foreigners, however on the big team no more then 4 are allowed at a time.” (Maestri)After already undergoing one season in Japan, the young Italian already seems to be quite adapted to the lifestyle: “the language is the biggest barrier that I’ve experienced over the past year, however I also find it quite fun trying to communicate with the Japanese.”
(Maestri) did, in fact this year a left-handed pitcher from Grosseto, Luca Panerati, also decided to give Japan a try by signing with the Toyama Thunderbirds of the Baseball Challenge League (Independent). This league was founded in 2007 and plays host to 6 teams. “The league kicked off back on the 13th of April, my team opened up with a 5-2 loss to Matsumoto but in our home opener we were able to walk away victorious, winning 6-2.
So far I haven’t been utilized all that much, I’ve faced only 2 hitters back on the 19th. My teams pitching coach has promised me the opportunity to start, however nothing is official as of yet.” (Panerati) Until last spring the Japanese league seemed far out of reach for young Italian ballplayers. That was until the right-handed pitcher, Alessandro Maestri, ventured off to the island country in hopes of putting his talents on display. Maestri’s journey began in the Shikoku Island League in early 2012. It was there that this young Italian caught the eye of the Orix Buffaloes of the Pacific League in the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball).
Maestri finished off the 2012 season with the big team and earned a call back for 2013 season. Currently he is one of the Buffaloes 5 starting pitchers (Kaneko -jp, Nishi -jp, Kaida -jp, Dickson -usa, and Maestri -it). Maestri’s season began with a win on the April the 4th. He threw 6 innings in a game against the Rakuten Eagles, giving up 2 earned runs in a lopsided 13-2 victory. Since then he has thrown in more games, both losses (7-6 to the Fukuoka Hawks and 8-6 to the Seibu Lions). “I didn’t throw very well in the last game,” said Maestri “in fact since that subpar performance against the Lions people have been asking me if I was injured or if there was something wrong. Nothing like that is going on, it’s just a small mechanical error that I feel I’ve already taken care of by checking out film from last year.”
The Nippon Professional Baseball League is the highest level of play that Maestri has played throughout his professional career, he also played in the Chicago Cubs organization, in Independent ball for the Lincoln Saltdogs in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, and in the ABL for the Brisbane Bandits. “The NPB isn’t Major League Baseball, however it is still some of the best baseball in the world. The opportunity that I have been given here is without a doubt an opportunity that many seek out and few obtain. After the season my contract with the team will be up, however if I’m given the chance to resign here with the Buffaloes I’ll pounce on it in a heartbeat.”
Maestri’s experience in Japan has also helped pave the way for others to venture in the same way that he Panerati has Maestri to thank for his opportunity in Japan. “When Alessandro made the jump to the NPB it gave me the motivation to give Japanese baseball a shot. The level of ball over here is eye opening, everyone arrives early and leaves late. Its not 100% that they give but 1000%, and the only reason that they don’t give more is because its not physically possible.”